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Please note, the views and statements contained below are not to be considered endorsements. All of the statements are personal views and may not be shared by other individuals featured in the #WhatsABencher #WhatDoBenchersDo campaign.
This page is to highlight different views from legal professionals about pressing issues for 2019 Bencher Candidates. The publishing of these views does not constitute or imply an endorsement for any particular candidate.
I am a law student at Osgoode Hall Law School, currently in my first year. I am a volunteer with Pro Bono Students Canada: specifically, I work with the PBSC Wills Project, wherein I drafts wills and powers of attorney (under supervision of a lawyer) for people with low income, pro bono. Previously, I studied at the University of Toronto Scarborough, where I majored in English and Philosophy. I am proud to live in Scarborough, and I work to strengthen and maintain my community–for example, I have volunteered with Scouts Canada (the 1st Highland Creek Beaver Scouts in particular) for many years. I plan on practicing in Estate Law.
My Two Cents
I chose to go into law for two reasons: first, I want to work in a career that always presents a challenge; second, to paraphrase Lord Baden-Powell, I wish to leave the world better than I found it. Yet there is one major deterrent from practicing law, namely the cost of legal education. Law school tuition is far too high: undoubtedly, it prevents talented people from entering the profession. Accordingly, I contend that Benchers should work with the existing law schools to keep tuition fees from running amuck. In conjunction with (or instead of) laying down the law on the schools, perhaps these Benchers can appeal to the Deans’ humanity by making note of the benefits of lower tuition fees, such as making pro bono work more viable (by contrast, lawyers may be dissuaded from offering pro bono services if their debt hangs over their heads like the Sword of Damocles).
Speaking of pro bono work, I sincerely believe that lawyers have a duty to serve the public interest—“much is required from the person to whom much is given” (Luke 12:48). Lawyers are armed with intelligence and knowledge (both abstract and practical), and therefore should fulfill their duty by providing some pro bono legal services (without threatening their livelihood) to those in need within their communities. The question is thus how Benchers can encourage lawyers to act altruistically. A Bencher may choose the proverbial carrot or stick—or some combination thereof—but this choice should be done with prudence, including a frim understanding of the various contexts in which lawyers work.
Renee M. Johnson
RJ PARALEGAL believes that everyone is entitled to a safe and happy work environment. Renee is passionate about educating the public on their rights as employee’s . Going to court can be expensive and stressful. Renee’s mandate is to educate the public on their rights, so they can avoid going to court. Unfortunately, court sometimes is the only option.
Areas of Practice: Wrongful Dismissal, Owed Wages (Severance/Termination Pay), Owed Vacation Pay
LinkedIn: Renee J
My Two Cents
As a licenced paralegal who graduated in 2014, I feel that a lot more needs to be done to educate the public on what a paralegal can do. Even with the Law Society’s mandate to educate the public, we are still not represented in the courts; and we certainly are not being represented in law firms. Most law firms hire paralegals as legal assistants and this is unfortunate. Law firms and the public need to realize that paralegals are trained to advocate in court. For instance, paralegals are taught how to prepare a trial from beginning to end. I think the discord is lawyers not realizing that the paralegal program is not the same as the law clerk program.
It is unfair to assume that a licensed paralegal who appears for the first time in court or a tribunal has no experience in public speaking. In fact, many of our mock trails were before practicing judges or adjudicators. Moreover, we are taught by practicing lawyers, paralegals, judges and adjudicators. Lastly, in our program, we are required to attend court and observe court procedures so that when we graduate we have already had the experience of being in a court room.
In 2007, The Law Society regulated paralegals, however, if the lawyers don’t trust us then how can we expect the public to trust us? There has to be a level of trust for paralegals to move forward and this starts with lawyers accepting, promoting, and hiring us as paralegals and not legal assistants.
Aderan F. Sookhoo
I was called to the bar at Toronto in 2016. I practiced at law offices across the Greater Toronto Area, developing my skills in civil litigation, immigration, estate law, and real estate. Additionally, I volunteer with PBLO – LHO providing advice to self-represented individuals. I have a technological background, which I use to aid colleagues about digital business development and safety. I am currently practicing at Sookhoo Law P.C. servicing East Toronto and the Durham regions.
Areas of practice: Civil Litigation, Wills & Estates, Immigration, Real Estate, and Notary Services.
My Two Cents
I believe that a Bencher should be more focused on developing the “lawyer” title as a whole. Clients, at least from what I have heard from other lawyers in the GTA, believe that lawyers outside of the core of Toronto are not as good as lawyers in the large firms. A Bencher should aim to grow the image that local lawyers are highly qualified, and can serve you just as well, if not better.
A Bencher should also develop additional programs for articling students and newly called lawyers. I can say, from my personal experience, my pre-articling to first year were among the hardest of my career. If it was not for connections that I built with students and lawyers, who were also going through the same feeling of freefall, it would have been much worse.